Adam Silver

NBA Still Considering Possible Mid-Season Tournament

The NBA continues to consider a possible mid-season tournament, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). The concept was addressed in a Competition Committee group call today.

Charania adds that a wrinkle designed to incentivize player interest is a $1MM prize for each player on the winning club. Obviously, for a maximum-salaried veteran, $1MM isn’t a huge incentive, but for players at the end of the roster, it would represent a significant sum.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been contemplating a mid-season tournament for years now. In a 2019 conversation with Marc Stein of the New York Times (now with Substack), Silver explained his thinking behind the concept.

“In the case of European soccer, I think there is something we can learn from them,” Silver told Stein in 2019. “I also recognize I’m up against some of the traditionalists who say no one will care about that other competition, that other trophy, you create. And my response to that is, ‘Organizations have the ability to create new traditions.’ It won’t happen overnight.”

The other change to league play that had been bandied about at the time was a play-in tournament, to expand postseason eligibility for teams, get late-year engagement from additional fanbases, and disincentivize tanking.

After being initially introduced during the league’s Orlando restart “bubble” to conclude the 2019/20 season, the play-in tournament was revised for the 2020/21 season. It proved a hit with fans, and looks to remain a part of the NBA for years to come. No doubt the league is hoping for similar success and increased eyeballs with a mid-season tournament.

And-Ones: Rose, Roberts, Thunder’s Arena, Free Agents, Silver

NBA VP of basketball operations Malik Rose is a candidate to succeed Michele Roberts as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, Marc Stein of Substack tweets. Roberts recently told Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill she planned to stay at her post for “another six or so months.” Rose was an assistant GM with the Pistons for two seasons prior to accepting his current post last June. 

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • A new name for the Thunder‘s arena will be revealed as soon as next week, Steve Lackmeyer of The Oklahoman writes. Signage for the Chesapeake Energy Arena was removed on Thursday. The team has a naming rights deal in place, pending approval of its application from the Downtown Design Review Committee.
  • Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul and John Collins are the top three potential free agents, according to a ranking system used by The Athletic’s John Hollinger. The top 20 free agents are ranked, with Hollinger projecting potential contracts offers for those players.
  • The challenges over the past two seasons created by the virus have been immense but NBA commissioner Adam Silver hopes it has brought a better understanding between management and players, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “That sense of unity, I hope we can keep up,” Silver said. “I think the players have a better understanding of what we’re up against in trying to run this business, and we have a better understanding of the players — what it’s like to travel the amount they do, the stresses they’re under, the emotional and physical burdens they’re under by competing at this level.”

And-Ones: NBPA, V. Baker, Hervey, Okobo, NBA Parity

In an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts spoke about why she considers this season a success, what role she plays in the union’s decision-making process, and the criticisms some players, including LeBron James, have vocalized about the shortened offseason heading into this year.

The recommendation to start in December came from the league,” Roberts said. “So the big ask was, could we start the games in December? And the answer was not yes from Michele. The decision to play or not to play comes from the players.”

As far as the criticisms from James, and others who may agree with him, Roberts’ reinforced her support for players voicing dissenting opinions. “I don’t have a problem with players that articulate their opposition to decisions that were made,” she said. “That’s their absolute right. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

We have more news from around the basketball community:

  • Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times writes about Bucks‘ assistant coach Vin Baker‘s rise as an NBA star, his battles with alcoholism – which included him drinking Bacardi Limón from a water bottle during games – and his eventual recovery and progression back to the world of the NBA. “This was an opportunity that was afforded to me not to screw up,” Baker said. “It’s not about me. Like it’s not about ‘I made it. I’m a coach of the Bucks.’ It’s about there’s somebody watching.”
  • Virtus Bologna has signed Kevin Hervey to a two-year deal, tweets Donatas Urbonas, a Lithuania-based reporter. The deal for the former Thunder second-round pick had been reported to be in the works in recent weeks.
  • Elie Okobo, the 31st pick in the 2018 draft, has signed with ASVEL Basket in France, reports Dario Skerletic of Sportando. Okobo will join former NBA players Norris Cole and Guerschon Yabusele, as well as top 2023 prospect Victor Wembanyama.
  • The “Parity Era” in the NBA may be here, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “I see this as, hopefully, the end of a transition for the league,” Reynolds quotes commissioner Adam Silver as saying. “Not just post-COVID, but just by virtue of the teams that we saw in the conference finals, a real transition in terms of the league of the up-and-coming new stars, up-and-coming franchises, more parity throughout the league.” Whether that’s the case or whether injuries played more of a role in the playoffs shaping up the way they did remains to be seen.

And-Ones: Paul, Silver, Canaan, Mickey

Suns guard and NBPA president Chris Paul spoke about the NBA’s ongoing injury problem this postseason, making it clear that every player has the right to make their voice heard about topics discussed with the league throughout the year.

Several key players have dealt with injuries throughout the playoffs, including Paul himself. It’s unclear whether the compressed schedule has played a large role or whether the league has simply experienced bad luck — or a combination of both.

“Man, one thing about our league and its players is everything is always a conversation,” Paul said, as relayed by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. “There’s a ton of guys on the executive committee who are working hard on things right now, as we speak — day in and day out, traveling. I wish you guys knew all the things that are going on. So, decisions that are made as far as playing or not playing, players are always involved in it.

“Injuries are always unfortunate. You hate to have them. But just like when we went to the bubble, everything was discussed as far as the players and the full body of players. Everything that’s good for this guy and that guy might not be the same for that guy, but everything has always been a conversation, and it’s going to continue to be that way. So, if people don’t like it, then you know everybody has the same opportunity to be a part of all these conversations.”

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world today:

  • Allowing fans back into arenas helped the NBA with financial losses caused by COVID-19, commissioner Adam Silver said, as relayed by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “We did somewhat better than we initially projected,” said Silver. “We don’t have the exact numbers yet, but maybe we’ll be down roughly a third in revenue, something around there, instead of 40%.”
  • Isaiah Canaan has signed an extension with Unics Kazan in Russia, the team announced (via Twitter). Canaan, a former NBA guard, averaged 14.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game in 43 outings with the club last season.
  • Free agent big man Jordan Mickey has signed with Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia, the team announced (Twitter link). Mickey, the No. 33 pick in 2015, holds NBA experience with the Celtics and Heat.

Adam Silver Talks Injuries, Raptors, Representation, Play-In Tournament, Expansion

NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke with the media ahead of Game 1 of the NBA Finals. During his media session, he covered a wide variety of topics, shedding light on his and the league’s mindset heading into next season and beyond.

Silver admitted that the compressed schedule could have had an effect on the unusually high number of severe injuries this season, saying “I have no doubt the physical stress and mental toll has contributed to injuries,” (Twitter link via USA Today’s Mark Medina).

Silver also introduced the topic of an internal clock, saying because NBA players are used to playing within a certain time-frame in a given year, changing that time-frame radically could have an effect on injuries. He admitted that, given the extraordinary circumstances, it’s hard to say whether the choices the league made were the right ones, tweets Medina.

“Quite frankly,” Silver said, “we might not know for quite a while after this pandemic is over, whether we made the right decision or not.”

Silver also discussed the Raptors, who – given the U.S./Canada border restrictions – had to play out this season in Tampa. According to Marc Stein (Twitter link), Silver said it’s “unclear” if the Raptors will be able to return to Toronto for next season, but that the team and the league are hopeful.

On the topic of black and female representation, both among coaching staffs and around the league, Silver was adamant that the league most look to improve itself. “It’s something that requires daily attention,Medina quotes Silver as saying. “We’re not gonna rest on our laurels.”

It’s a little bit frustrating,” Silver continued. “It’s an area you look around here, and you’d like to see more representation here with all aspects of our business.”

Silver was optimistic about the continued existence of the play-in tournament, which has been a ratings success over the last two seasons. “It’s my expectation we’ll continue it for next season,” Silver said (Twitter link via Brian Lewis of The New York Post). Silver added that the decision is pending an agreement between the players’ union and the teams, and that some players, including LeBron James, were not a fan of the tournament.

Finally, on the topic of league expansion, Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated tweets that Silver says “it’s not at the top of the agenda right now,” but that he’ll continue to consider at the topic.

Southeast Notes: Randle, Magic, Heat, Silver Talks Hawks

Magic reserve point guard Chasson Randle, who signed a two-way contract with the club in February, helped shore up the Orlando bench’s ball-handling and shooting needs, writes Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. In 41 games with Orlando (including five starts), Randle averaged 6.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.8 APG and 0.5 SPG across just 20.4 MPG. He posted a slash line of .388/.338/.792. Randle, 27, played for the Sixers, Knicks, and Warriors prior to his Magic tenure.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic announced their intentions to enter full rebuild mode with a trio of trades this season, dealing veterans Nikola Vučević, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier for young players and future draft equity. In a mailbag, Josh Robbins of The Athletic takes a look at timelines for the team’s rebuild and hiring a new head coach, plus other items. Robbins anticipates that the Magic will take as long as they need to accrue players with All-NBA ceilings, and that they’re in better position to take a chance on a more inexperienced coach than some other “win-now” clubs with similar vacancies.
  • The Heat took a disappointing step backwards this season, regressing from a 2020 Finals appearance to a first-round playoff sweep in 2021. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald examines practical options for improving the club should it opt to use cap space, among them signing veteran Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. Jackson also takes a look at roster additions Miami could make if it decides to continue operating over the salary cap.
  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke with Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the rising Hawks and their best player, point guard Trae Young. “It’s part and parcel of professional sports that there’s invariably a passing of the torch,” Silver said of Young’s ascent. “Trae, I’ve said, is one of them, and it’s an incredible opportunity for this new generation of stars to perform on the biggest stage and in front of an enormous global audience.” Silver also mentioned that, in light of the 2021 All-Star game transpiring in Atlanta mid-pandemic, the league was keeping Atlanta in mind as a destination for a more normal future contest. “The answer is a resounding yes, that was always part of the understanding with [owners Antony Ressler and Steven Price] that the league was very appreciative that they came through for us on relative short notice and agreed to host that All-Star game, and now of course talking to you after the fact, it was even, frankly, more successful than we thought it would have been.”

NBA Remains Interested In Midseason Tournament

After the new play-in tournament proved to be something of a ratings bonanza this week, the NBA appears hopeful that it can come to an agreement with the National Basketball Players’ Association about creating a midseason tournament, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Woj reports that NBA commissioner Adam Silver thinks the league will be able to convince the rest of the Board of Governors (comprising Silver, the owners of all 30 teams, and their representatives) to bring the concept to a vote down the road. The midseason tournament idea had previously not made it to the voting stage when it was considered before the pandemic.

Two-thirds of team owners would need to support the measure for it to be enacted. The earliest a midseason tournament could be implemented now would be the 2022/23 season.

Silver believes a midseason tournament will be able to help keep fans invested during a lengthy regular season that has sometimes struggled to maintain interest ahead of the playoffs. The original proposal also included a pitch to reduce the NBA regular season from 82 games to 78 in order to accommodate a midseason competition.

Previously, the league had been looking to model its midseason tournament around the structure that European football currently uses. The NBA was considering an eight-game single-elimination competition. Each player on the victorious squad would be rewarded with a $1MM payout, under this original proposal.

Adam Silver Talks Play-In, ’21/22 Start Date, Arena Capacities

During an appearance on Friday’s episode of Keyshawn, J-Will and Zubin on ESPN Radio (video link), NBA commissioner Adam Silver made it clear that his preference would be for the play-in tournament to be a mainstay for years to come, as long as the teams and players are on board.

“I haven’t made any secret that I want it to be (around long-term),” Silver said, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.

The Lakers/Warriors play-in game on Wednesday was a major ratings success, becoming ESPN’s most-watched NBA telecast since the 2019 Western Conference Finals, per a press release. Silver acknowledged that not all of this year’s play-in games have been on the same level as that one, but suggested that the positive effects of the play-in format go beyond this week’s TV ratings.

According to Silver, the format resulted in a higher quality of play – and stronger ratings – during the final few weeks of the regular season as teams battled for positioning in the standings.

“(It) was causing teams, who frankly otherwise may have thrown in the towel some number of weeks back, to fight for those last playoff spots,” Silver said.

Here’s more from the NBA commissioner:

  • Silver confirmed today that the NBA’s plan is for the 2021/22 season to begin at its usual time in October. That would mean two consecutive shorter-than-usual offseasons in 2020 and 2021, but Silver pointed out that the break this summer wouldn’t be as brief as it was a year ago.
  • Silver believes we could see sellout crowds – or close to it – for the NBA Finals in July, as Bontemps details. “I think it’s very possible that come July, when our Finals will be, you’ll see essentially full buildings,” Silver said. The commissioner, who added that “close to 80%” of the NBA’s players have received COVID-19 vaccinations, cautioned that the league will still be “fairly conservative” about filling seats on or near the court.
  • Silver took exception to the idea that the NBA needs its big-market teams to play well to be successful, suggesting that superstars like Giannis Antetokounmpo can turn even small-market clubs like the Bucks into marquee franchises (video link). He also explained why the NBA fined Hawks coach Nate McMillan for suggesting the league wants to see the Knicks do well: “Nate’s a veteran coach and he knows better. He’s trying to inspire his team to try and suggest the league would somehow prefer some teams over others, and it’s just not the case. He knows it and he’s just got a young team and wants to get them going.”

Silver Expects Return To Normal Next Season

After two straight seasons of COVID-19 disruptions, NBA commissioner Adam Silver expects things to return to normal for 2021/22, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Speaking at his annual All-Star weekend press conference, which was held virtually this year because of the virus, Silver said the league foresees a traditional October start for next season with little or no limits on attendance.

“I’m fairly optimistic, at this point, that we will be able to start on time,” he said. “Roughly half our teams have fans in their arenas right now and, if vaccines continue on the pace they are and they continue to be as effective as they have been against the virus and its variants, we’re hopeful that we’ll have relatively full arenas next season as well.”

Those plans don’t include the overseas trips that several teams usually make during the preseason. Silver said those won’t resume until at least 2022.

Silver also addressed the financial toll that COVID-19 has taken on the league, which had 171 games canceled last season and will lose at least 150 this year. Revenue projections for 2019/20 fell about $1.5 billion short, and similar losses are expected this season.

“Last season and this season has required a significant investment on the part of the team owners,” Silver said. “They accept that. Players will end up taking a reduction in salary this season because they are partners with the league and teams on revenue. League executives, team executives have all taken haircuts on their salary. But I think when we all step back, we all feel very fortunate to be working under these circumstances and my sense is the players feel the same way.”

Silver touched on several other topics during his session with reporters:

  • No “concrete plans” are in place to resume Summer League play this year in Las Vegas, Reynolds notes. The NBA Finals could finish as late as July 22, which is about when the Summer League usually wraps up. “I think we’re going to end up (with) maybe an abbreviated Summer League, mini-camps and other opportunities,” Silver said. “Everything’s on the table now.”
  • Silver has talked to NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts about eliminating the one-and-done rule and allowing 18-year-olds to enter the NBA draft, Reynolds adds. The commissioner indicated the issue could be considered when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is negotiated.
  • The NBA won’t require anyone to take the COVID-19 vaccine, but Silver believes “most players” will opt to get it, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Bontemps points out that it’s a way for players to get away from frequent testing and mandatory quarantines. “My hunch is that most players ultimately will choose to get vaccinated,” Silver said. “They have to make personal decisions at the end of the day — and I take that very seriously, and I take concerns very seriously. But my sense is most (players) will, ultimately, decide it is in their interest to get vaccinated.”

COVID-19 Roundup: Silver, Vaccine, Restrictions, Flights, Postponements

The NBA has held discussions about players receiving COVID-19 vaccines in order to influence the general public, and the African-American community in particular, to do the same, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports. Commissioner Adam Silver hopes the league can set an example and foster the belief that the vaccines are safe and effective.

“Several public health officials — and this is operating state by state right now — have suggested there would be a real public health benefit to getting some very high-profile African Americans vaccinated to demonstrate to the larger community that it is safe and effective,” Silver said.

Right now, NBA athletes are not eligible to receive the vaccines until they become more widely available. It has been suggested that players could volunteer at public distribution centers and receive the vaccine in that setting while encouraging the public to follow suit. Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, has said that numerous players are hesitant about getting the vaccine.

We have more COVID-19 related news:

  • There’s been a mixed reaction to the recently-tightened health and safety protocols, according to Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report. Some players and coaches are resistant to the notion of having little to no contact with the outside world. Others say they have little choice. “If we don’t accept that that’s the way it has to be, we lose out on a lot of things. Our season, our health, our contracts, everything goes downhill if we don’t play by these rules,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.
  • In the same article, Highkin noted that 28 of the NBA’s 30 teams have a partnership with Delta Airlines, which has not mandated that its flight crews get tested for COVID-19 despite lobbying from the league’s medical leadership. Delta crew members must wear masks and can’t come within six feet of any NBA personnel, but several teams still refuse to eat on team planes.
  • The league is determined to continue playing despite a rash of postponements due to virus-related issues, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. An unnamed Western Conference executive told ESPN’s Baxter Holmes that resistance to playing in another bubble-like environment made these issues inevitable. “Nobody wanting to go back to a long bubble period of play has put us in this position,” he said. “It is doable but sub-optimal.”